Police concluded it was an accident. The bullet escaped when Reid was trying to unload his handgun by releasing the magazine, and the slide slipped. A bulletproof vest hanging on Reid's office door stopped the bullet. No one was hurt, but the incident prompted a swift apology from Reid and words of concern from Gov. Tim Kaine about public safety at the Capitol.
The issue, however, has long been a concern for Mason. Capitol Police have no records of those permitted to carry concealed weapons on Capitol grounds, including inside the Capitol (closed for renovations), the Patrick Henry Building or the General Assembly Building.
Conversely, Mason says, legislators with permits to carry concealed weapons simply don't volunteer that information with Capitol Police. "They're not required by any law," Mason says, "so unless they want to let us know, we don't know."
Reid's bullet isn't the first to graze the Capitol grounds. Before last week, it appears that first and last distinction occurred 140 years ago. According to Capitol historian Mark Greenough, a gun was fired in the Rotunda in 1866 during an argument between two journalists who worked for rival Richmond newspapers.
Virginia law mandates that anyone carrying a concealed weapon must produce a permit upon request, and lawmaker Reid did so obligingly, Mason says.
It's somewhat different for Joe citizen. Visitors and workers at the Capitol complex must pass through metal detectors. If they're carrying a concealed weapon, they must produce the necessary permit to carry it.
Because of a Virginia law that went into effect last year, people can still carry a firearm to the Capitol without a permit and in plain sight but now they must turn it over to police to be kept in a "lock box" while the individual is inside any Capitol buildings. Since the new rules, Mason says he can't recall any instances in which this has happened. "Not yet," he
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